IPFW Chancellor Ron Elsenbaumer introduces new vice chancellor to Rotarians, discusses Purdue Fort Wayne plans

Jerry Lewis is interim vice chancellor for communications and chief marketing officer for IPFW/Purdue Fort Wayne. (Courtesy of IPFW)
IPFW Chancellor Ron Elsenbaumer talks after his presentation Monday to the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
IPFW Chancellor Ron Elsenbaumer discusses Monday to Rotary Club of Fort Wayne changes happening at the university as it transitions to Purdue University Fort Wayne. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)

UPDATED: Information on Lewis’ public relations experience has been added to this story.

IPFW Chancellor Ron Elsenbaumer has chosen a longtime friend and colleague to help him communicate plans for the separation of Purdue and Indiana universities at the Fort Wayne campus.

Elsenbaumer, speaking Monday to the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne at its weekly meeting at Parkview Field, introduced Jerry Lewis. Lewis, who said after the meeting that he’s known Elsenbaumer for about 10 years, worked with the chancellor at the University of Texas in Arlington, where Elsenbaumer was special advisor on entrepreneurship and economic development to the president before starting at IPFW on Nov. 1.

Lewis has been in Fort Wayne since starting Feb. 1 in the position that Elsenbaumer created as interim vice chancellor for communications and chief marketing officer at Purdue University Fort Wayne. Lewis has about 30 years in strategic communications, marketing, and public affairs and most recently worked as senior vice president for communications and public affairs at Emory University in Atlanta, according to an IPFW news release.

“This is such a critical time,” Lewis said. “Getting the branding right” is a key component of his job overseeing the communications and marketing departments.

Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne plans to split into separate universities at the campus at 2101 Coliseum Blvd. E. that they’ve shared since 1964. Purdue Fort Wayne has a new logo and the school colors will be the main campus at West Lafayette’s gold and black instead of IPFW’s blue and white. Those are just a few of the changes going on.

Lewis and Elsenbaumer both said one priority is getting more students. Elsenbaumer told the Rotarians, “We need to serve all learners.” That includes high school students taking college courses in addition to 4- to 6-year on-campus students.

And while some people talk about online classes negating the need for brick-and-mortar campuses, Elsenbaumer sees the need to enhance student housing.

“That experience is not going away. You can’t duplicate that experience without living it.”

He remembers himself as a 17-year-old leaving Allentown, Pa., for Purdue’s West Lafayette campus to study chemistry. He worked at Allied Chemical, now Honeywell, after getting his doctorate at Stanford, then spent 26 years at the University of Texas.

“You make a lot of mistakes, but you learn from those mistakes,” he said of the on-campus experience for students.

Elsenbaumer has already met with over 200 business and community leaders. Another thing that he’s heard from the community is that IU will abandon the campus. Not so, he said. IU will be providing radiology, dental and other medical programs on the campus. Purdue has added three schools since Elsenbaumer took over: a School of Polytechnic, Purdue’s only School of Music, and a School of Education.

Graduation isn’t the end for students.

“Our real job at the university is to train our graduates for lifelong careers,” Elsenbaumer said. While getting jobs after graduation is important, the university is looking at the long run, with many people changing careers up to 10 times, he said.

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